Paul Tripp has composed a bonus chapter to his book on pastoral ministry, Dangerous Calling.
In the chapter he outlines eleven practical steps for pastors to pursue to help them have healthy ministries.
The tone of the book, and this chapter is fairly urgent and directive, but I think that’s because Tripp is very concerned about the effect that poor personal spiritual self-care among pastors have, not only on them personally, but on the churches we lead.
One of the emphases in Dangerous Calling is that pastors have basically adopted a personal spiritual life as part of their calling that we’d see as perilous if any person we were pastoring adopted it.
The whole eleven steps are helpful.
I’ve reproduced number seven here because I believe it’s vitally important and often more or less ignored in practice.
I can’t understand why pastors whose churches don’t have any activity on Sunday night never visit other churches.
You can find a pdf file of the chapter at this page on Tripp’s website.
7) ASK TO BE PASTORED
There is a debilitating myth that is widely accepted across the evangelical church culture. It is that pastors, being knowledgeable and mature, do not need pastoring. The vast majority of church attenders assume that their pastors are spiritually healthy. Committed members may pray for their pastor, and that is good, but they would never presume to speak into his life. Pastor, this assumption places you in spiritual danger. It puts you on a spiritual pedestal that no one between the “already” and the “not yet” should be on. Isolated, separated, individualistic Christianity is as dangerous for you as it is for anyone else in your congregation. You share identity with everyone to whom you minister. You too are a sinner in the middle of your sanctification, and you too need the ongoing ministry of the body of Christ. Since there is no indication in the New Testament that a pastor is safe living outside the body of Christ, you must resist buying into the myth and ask to be pastored.
This means two things. First, you need to seek out a copastor on your staff or a mature elder and ask that person to pastor you. Ask him to intrude on your private world with questions it would be hard for you to ask yourself. Ask him to meet with you regularly for counsel, encouragement, rebuke, and prayer. Next, you must find a way to place yourself under the rich teaching and preaching of God’s Word. Be committed to attend a service in your church at which you do not preach. If you have only a morning service, find another church in your community where there is sound gospel preaching. If you have no other options, watch or listen to at least one good sermon on the Internet each week. Too many pastors attempt to give, give, give without receiving any life-giving, heart-convicting, gospel-infused teaching themselves. No wonder they begin to dry up!
I am gone almost every weekend, but I do my best to get home on Saturday night so I can worship with God’s people and sit under good preaching. Sitting next to my wife while hearing good preaching is not only the highlight of my week; it is essential to what God has called me to do.